CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat on Monday denied long-running claims, reportedly repeated by a local NGO last week, that he has any interest in sugarcane plantations in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces, which are accused of stealing land from local farms and other rights abuses.
Sen. Yong Phat is the owner of the equally controversial Phnom Penh Sugar plantation in Kompong Speu province. He was invested in a pair of plantations in Koh Kong owned by Thailand’s Khon Kaen Sugar until selling his shares to the firm a few years ago.
According to NGOs, farmers in Oddar Meanchey claim that local authorities have told them to take their complaints against a trio of plantations there, officially owned by Thai sugar firm Mitr Pohl, to Sen. Yong Phat. They say families there have also been forced off the plantations’ land both by company employees bearing Sen. Yong Phat’s name and by soldiers from a military unit that his company provides donations to.
In a statement sent out on Monday, Phnom Penh Sugar—referencing unspecified online Khmer media—claims that Eang Vuthy of the NGO Equitable Cambodia again accused the senator of being the local partner of the Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey plantations at a press conference last week in Phnom Penh. The statement denies the claim.
“Ly Yong Phat is not involved in the management of, and has no shares in, Khon Kaen Sugar or Mitr Pohl in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces,” the statement says. “Therefore, any accusation that Oknha Ly Yong Phat is involved in activities in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces was made irresponsibly and without evidence.”
It says the claims have caused “confusion” and “hurt the honor” of the senator.
Mr. Vuthy, Equitable Cambodia’s executive director, on Tuesday denied referencing Sen. Yong Phat at last week’s press conference but nonetheless stood by the claim that he was tied to the plantations in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey.
He conceded that the senator sold his shares in Koh Kong plantations. As for the plantations in Oddar Meanchey, he added, “I’m saying that Ly Yong Phat is associated with those three concessions, no doubt. Why? Because the address [for all the companies] is the same. The people there, during the evictions, Ly Yong Phat’s name was widely known. They [authorities] told people, if you have problems, go to Ly Yong Phat.”
The use of soldiers from the very military unit the senator donates to, he added, was only more proof.
“I strongly encourage him to correct his statement…because we have evidence,” Mr. Vuthy said. “The evidence I have, I can strongly say he is associated. All of this proves he had connections at the time of the evictions.”
Phnom Penh Sugar denied that it shares a head office address with the plantations in the other provinces.
“It is not the exact same address as the LYP group,” Phnom Penh Sugar director Seng Nhak said in an email Tuesday, referring to his firm’s parent company.
According to Ministry of Commerce records, the LYP Group’s Phnom Penh Sugar has its head office at 205-209 Mao Tse Toung Boulevard.
The address for the two plantations in Koh Kong is listed as 205-207 Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. The address for the three plantations in Oddar Meanchey is listed as 205-209 Eo Mao Tse Toung Boulevard.